Casey DeSmith felt invigorated when he came to Vancouver.

The 32-year-old netminder believes that the new environment made him feel younger. On top of that, the challenge of playing in a Canadian market for the first time in his career has motivated him to work even harder.

“It’s reignited a fire in me,” said DeSmith about coming to Vancouver. “It’s different playing hockey in Canada. It has been fun being in Vancouver and seeing how much this city loves their Canucks.”

DeSmith came to Vancouver and knew what his role was going to be. But when Thatcher Demko went down earlier this month, DeSmith was ready for the change in his job description – as he would get the bulk of the starts until early April.

“I don't think much has changed in my game,” said DeSmith about the added workload. “It's just that I get to play more hockey. That is something I have done in the past and obviously, I've been playing hockey for a long time. So, it's just more of the same. I think the more emphasis you put on it, the harder it would be.”

Head Coach Rick Tocchet has been most impressed by DeSmith’s demeanour all season long. The head coach recognized the stability that a goaltender has to have but also knows that one big moment in the crease can change the game.

“Casey doesn't look nervous at all,” said Tocchet. “Every game, he has made a key, 10-bell save for us that could change the outcome. A save or goal there can change the narrative of the game and I think he has made those saves and it builds confidence in himself and our team in him.”

Tocchet is assisted on his staff by the Director of Goaltending, Ian Clark. 

Clark demands a lot from his goaltenders, and it takes a netminder with a certain level of work ethic to be successful in the ‘Clarkie System.’ DeSmith has bought in and invested with the work this season.

“Clarkie has done a hell of a job with him, changing a few things in his game that really has helped it from the Pittsburgh days till now,” said Tocchet. “I can tell there is a difference. Casey looks a lot bigger in the net this year than he has in the past. That is attributed to the work between him and Clarkie.”

DeSmith has been more than a capable backup goaltender this season. He has an 11-6-6 record and has a 2.73 goals-against average this season. DeSmith picked up a 27-save shutout against the Minnesota Wild on December 7th.

The boost that comes when you have confidence in your backup is something that J.T. Miller experienced on playoff-bound teams and remembers those rooms having trust in their backups when Andrei Vasilevskiy went down in Tampa Bay as well as Henrik Lundqvist in New York.

“It happens a lot in the NHL,” said Miller. “You will need your backup to step up for you and Casey has been unreal for us the whole season. It's a sign of good teams when you can have the goalie depth that can help you out when your starter is not available. He has just been so steady and clean. You can see he is getting more and more confident as he goes, and he is an awesome guy. We are lucky to have him.”

Miller believes the group is not worried about who is in net for them. He does not believe it affects how the team plays because every player in that room is only worrying about their job.

“We all have a job to do,” said Miller. “He has a job to do, and we don't worry about that. He worries about himself and our whole team goal is to win the hockey game. If we play the right way, we should make Casey’s night a hell of a lot easier and that is the plan.”

With Demko on long-term injury reserve until early April, the Canucks called up Arturs Silovs to backup and DeSmith is trying to help Silovs in whatever way he can. Silovs is relishing the opportunity to work alongside Director of Goaltending Ian Clark at practice and DeSmith believes that Clark is the one who is doing the mentoring while he is just there to support Silovs as his partner.

“I leave the mentoring to Clarkie,” said DeSmith with a smile. “Clarkie takes a lot of pride in his mentoring of goalies young or old. I'll just be a buddy to Arty."

As much as this group has had success, DeSmith is not ready to feel satisfied about the 2023-24 season. He admits that the group feels pride because the NHL is a hard league to win games in, but the group still feels as if it has not accomplished anything.

“There's a feeling in this room that we haven't accomplished anything because we haven't won a playoff game yet and we certainly haven’t won the Stanley Cup,” said DeSmith. “That's the main goal of every single NHL team coming into the year. There is a lot of unsettled business when it comes to the feeling of accomplishment in this locker room. I don't think we are resting on anything we have done to this point in the year."